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My Take: Linsanity vs. Tebowmania, key similarities and differences
Stephen Prothero says there are big similarities between Jeremy Lin, above, and Tim Tebow, but big differences, too.
February 13th, 2012
04:35 PM ET

My Take: Linsanity vs. Tebowmania, key similarities and differences

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Is the New York Knicks’ point guard Jeremy Lin the NBA’s answer to Tim Tebow? Let me count the ways.

First, Lin was underestimated throughout his career. The knock has been that Tebow couldn’t throw. The knock on Lin had been that he wasn’t particularly athletic.

Although he led Palo Alto High School to a state championship in basketball, major college programs did not want Lin. And after he blew away the competition at Harvard, the NBA didn’t seem particularly interested either. Undrafted, he warmed the bench at Golden State, then Houston and then New York before getting his big break this year with the Knicks.

Second, like Tebow, Lin came out of nowhere to bring a dying team back from the dead. While Tebow turned around the Denver Broncos at quarterback, Lin has led the previously struggling Knicks at point guard to five straight victories, each with 20 points or more. And his field goal percentage during this winning streak tops 50%, not bad for a guy who supposedly can’t shoot.

Third, Lin is also a born-again Christian whose fans love him as much for cultural and religious intangibles as for his ability in his sport.

In a 2010 interview with Timothy Dalrymple of Patheos.com, Lin said he was raised in the church and became a Christian in high school. In college, he played “for the glory of God.” After his career-high 38 point performance against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, he said, “I just give all the praise to God.”

But Lin, who told Sports Illustrated in 2010 that he wants to be a pastor post-NBA, also has another intangible going for him—his Chinese-American heritage. Yes, the “Linsanity” is driven by his performance on the court, but it’s also driven by his Taiwanese descent, and the fact that he is one of a handful of Asian Americans to make it to the NBA.

Lin also differs from Tebow in his approach to the faith, which is more subtle. On his Facebook page, Lin does quote Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." But the "Taiwanese Tebow" doesn’t “Tebow” after a game. His evangelism is decidedly low key.

In this way, Lin is a reminder that, like Christians themselves, athletic evangelicals come in all shapes and sizes.

Scholars of religion have been observing for years that the Christian tradition is rapidly moving south and east, finding its new home not so much in Europe or in the United States as in Asia and Africa and Latin America.

Lin exemplifies this trend, even as he reminds us that American Christianity is changing its face, too. The Asian immigration boom that began with the opening up of immigration in 1965 did wonders for Buddhism and Hinduism, to be sure. But it brought far more Christians to American shores, many of them (like Lin) non-denominational evangelicals.

Down the road, Lin will probably get some of the same grief that Tebow has gotten for his outspoken faith. And if he is as human as that faith says he is, his shots are going to clang off the rim some day, and with it some of the sheen on his celebrity. In other words, there is at least as much insanity in Jeremania as there was in the cult of Tim Tebow. To believe in either guy takes a little bit of faith.

But for now, "Linsanity" is crazy wisdom, driving Web pilgrims to view the couch where Lin (who makes a paltry $762,000 a year) been supposedly sleeping in recent days and even resurrecting the stock of Madison Square Garden–Linflation?–which owns the surging Knicks.

Lin headlines his Twitter account with “to know Him is to want to know Him more.”

At least for now, Knicks fans seem to be saying that to watch Lin play is to want to watch him more. A lifelong Celtics fan, I've never liked the Knicks. But I want to see Lin more, too. Until he comes to Boston.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Sports • United States

soundoff (691 Responses)
  1. Pat Robertson

    Why is CNN trying to cut into the 700 Club's business. Shouldn't CNN be reporting on the real news?

    February 14, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • kkkgirl

      CNN employs too many people, apparently. They are all looking for something to report on, however obscure or uninteresting or irrelevant. If Trump was boss, he'd fire half of 'em!

      February 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • yeahalright

      It's a blog some dude writes for cnn. Stated pretty clearly. There's a million other news articles on the site.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  2. Yahwey or the highway

    Love it that L"insanity" is in reference to religious belief! LOL

    February 14, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Don

      If these people were not christians you christians would be calling them the servers of satan so since when do you insane fools get to be holier than thou? Just because you hear imaginary beings talking to you? How soon do you strap a bomb on and go blow up a bus or train station and kill hundreds of innocents in the name of god, the one cause that has killed more people than any other cause in history. I think it is called insanity but you see the truly insane deny it all the way to the grave, like you do!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Yahwey or the highway

      Don settle down .. I'm on your side. You apparently missed my point. I'm an Atheist but it seems the chip on your Atheist shoulder is blinding your view of my post. Even my name is sarcasm! Now go, fight the good fight, but pay attention to what's being posted.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Steve

      Doesn't sound like a good fight to me

      February 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  3. Waffles for my dump truck

    I just farted and it sounded like Gabriel's trumpet sounding the coming apocalypse. Is that a sign from God?

    February 14, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • bff

      God has a plan for your fart.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  4. M Woods

    Who? I've never heard of him. Then again, I wish I had never heard of Tebow.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • KC Yankee

      I'm with you, dude.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Get Educated Son

      Lin is the man who made Kobe look foolish. Kind of like your comment made you look.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  5. pd

    I thought this guy was going to say that God allowed both Tebow and Lin to over-achieve because of their religious preference.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  6. Raf

    Can Jesus shoot the 3?

    February 14, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • klangster

      yeah he has a pretty good 3 but his major strength is the pump fake layup

      February 14, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • J

      Ever see He Got Game???

      February 14, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  7. J0nx

    Less concern over sports and more concern about where we are as a country, who is leading us and thieving banksters please, thanks. The sheep are still wonderfully addicted to their ridiculous pastimes while Rome burns slowly in the background...

    February 14, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Don

      Hey, while Nero was burning down Rome the christians were running around and throwing oil onthe flames going burn baby burn because they had not come up with suicide packs yet they could strap on and blow up innocent people at bus and train stations. isn't wonderful how a well educated nation can still have millions running around suffering from an extreme illness such as schizophrenia where you hear imaginary beings talking to you and still get away with calling this severe illness religion?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  8. Atheist'SmINdS

    It really doesn't matter how many times Tebow scores a home run; It really doesn't matter how many basket Lin's nailing every game; It really doesn't matter how many hits/album Whitney had sold throughout her life; It doesn't matter if Romney is the best person to run the country; and most of all it doesn't really matter if Christian Charities have help lots of people, changing and saving may lives.

    What really matters most is what they believe. They believe in God and I don't. And that makes them stupid, thus, makes me wise.

    Hence, I have every right on earth to bash, insult and bad mouth them. They just make me want to be mean and just do anything to kick them down a few notches.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Don

      No I do not desire to be mean or hurt them I just desire to make them aware they are suffering from a severe mental health condition called schizophrenia and they need to seek help before they start strapping on bombs and blowing up innocent people at bus and train stations because those imaginary voices tell them those innocent people are 'EVIL' non believers. If they are not christians we call them terrorists but in this country if they ARE christians we say they are the true believers in god, LOL.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Get Educated Son

      Tebow doesn't score homeruns. He tosses touchdowns. Learn about sports nerd.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • oDn

      You seem to forget Loughner in Arizona.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • oDn

      He doesn't trust in God, remember? Don?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • O.H.

      Hey Atheist'SmINdS

      Not to rain on your parade, but in your rant bout atheism and such, you said Tebow scores home runs. He's a football player, not a baseball player, so he doesn't score home runs.

      Just thought you'd like to know.

      You may continue your hate-filled message for no reason.

      Have a nice day.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Atheist'SmINdS

      It only shows how much I don't like him. Nonetheless, thanks for reminding me, DAD!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Take a second

      Buddy, take a second and read what you just wrote. Sleep on it and read it again. Seriously. Loose some anger and see individuals for what they do and don't group people based on the lowest common denominator.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Dderp

      "Tebow doesn't score homeruns. He tosses touchdowns. Learn about sports nerd"

      To be more precise, he tosses incompletions.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Yahwey or the highway

      C'mon people – Atheist'SmINdS is a believer in Atheist's clothing in an attempt to subvert Atheist reasoning. You're just feeding right into them.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Atheist'SmINdS

      I was only telling what TRULY in my mind as an atheist when it comes to religious people. I'm not a hypocrite like the others.

      February 15, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  9. yeahalright

    Will he blame god when the shooting percentage comes down?

    Seems only fair since he's giving him all the credit when times are good.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • NOMORETEARS

      Only simple minded people think like you

      February 14, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Don

      You mean like Tebow did when he lost in the playoffs? Did you see him screaming and going nuts when he saw he was losing? Sure a sign of a man of god there, more like a sure picture of someone suffering from schizophrenia, before too long if Tebow keeps losing he will be strapping on a bomb and blowing up some bus or train stations and killing hundreds of innocents. If he were not a christian we would call him a terrorists but since he is they will just call him a true believer in god. Now you see how the insanity truly works. Scary isn't it? Look out, here come a christian terrorist now with a gun, duck!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • yeahalright

      Can deduce that from one question eh? Well nice way to avoid the question anyway. It is a very simple one, so your vastly superior mind ought to be able to answer it.

      Why does god get all the credit from some athletes when times are good but none of the blame when times are bad?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  10. JEN

    IT GREAT TO SEE PLAYERS PLAY GAME INSTEAD OF PRAYING. NOTICE PLAYER WHO PRAY NEVER MENTION THEIR GOD WHEN THEY LOSE. HOW SAD IS THAT.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • TP

      Sad? I wouldn't say it was sad.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • GoodolStevie

      Stevie Johnson did.

      http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Steve-Johnson-blames-God-for-his-overtime-drop?urn=nfl-289770

      February 14, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • yeahalright

      Not sad. Just hysterical. All the credit, none of the blame. If a god exists, and he gives a rats A about how some guy does in a sporting event, we're all in huge trouble.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  11. Tom

    I'm loving it. Anything that takes media away from Blake Griffin's one skill ego is fine with me. This guy is a great player up and down the court.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  12. Donna

    Key difference–Lin is competent at his position. Tebow will never be successful as an NFL quarterback.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Mike

      Denver was 1-4 without him, and went to the playoffs with him. I'd say that's successful

      February 14, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • kkkgirl

      His $9.7 million contract would suggest that he IS successful, (if money = success).

      February 14, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • AD

      @ Mike...Tebow wasn't successful, the BRONCOS were, particularly the defence, special teams, offensive line, RBs, and offensive co-ordinatior. Yes, Tebow was the one under center, but if they win a game, and of their 50 odd plays he throws the ball 10 times or less (completing only 4 or 5 at most), you can't account his skill or decision making for winning the game since 70% of the time all he's doing is turning around giving the ball to someone else (the other 10% he may run himself, designed or not). Lin on the other hand IS the one scoring the majority of his team's points, and as the pg IS the one deciding who gets the ball and where they get it helping his teammates score (as seen in his assists average). In my mind there is no comparison, Lin has talent and potential, Tebow doesn't!

      February 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  13. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    @ Sarah ... belief isn't a right held exclusively for "religious" beliefs. You do realize that don't you?

    February 14, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • U.S.Army-OverLord

      Why are NON BELIEVERS always writing on Belief sites?!? Are you looking to convert someone to your GOD LESS reilgion? If you don't believe in God good for you. But don't come preaching that foolishness on here. I'm sure they have sites for that B.S.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • ChrisS

      Is that not exactly what Chrisitans do on a daily basis? Try to convert non-believers (Scientist) to their worship of a never before seen, all powerful, forgiving 'God'? I don't care what you believe, but to throw it down people's throats is BS, and it happens all the time. When this country gets over the fact that it isn't the 'Land of God', maybe we will start coming up with some realistic fixes to these problems we have today.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Overlord .. LOL. This IS a site for BS.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  14. tebow

    why does everyone care?

    February 14, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • NOMORETEARS

      because they want to care

      February 14, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  15. Harlemrazed

    As A Knick fan I can honestly say... the first time I saw him play I hollered "are they kidding", get him off the court... he's a joke. Well today I eat crow. This only shows you can't judge a book by its cover. The man plays with heart, skill, and enthusiasm, which is a winning combination. I can't wait to see him perform with his SuperStars (Melo, Stoudemire,and Baron). So I must say believe it or not PEOPLE this is real. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride. For Now it's Linsanity.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • kkkgirl

      We sure don't like eating crow, so my hat's off to you for doing so! "I was wrong" is sometimes terribly hard to say, and I wish more people had the integrity to do so.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  16. Bank to School

    Triple Lindy – MELOn we dont need you...

    February 14, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Frank a NYC

      Let's not lose our mind here. We most definitely need Melo and Stat if we want a champioship.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Bank to School

      trade melo and chandler for Howard

      February 14, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  17. Right but left

    Who cares, I know I don't, a bunch of over paid men working a few hours a night and making millions.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  18. Rich

    Didn't know Lin was a Jesus nut. I like his discretion. I hope he doesn't start Tebowing after each 3-pointer.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  19. Greg

    Just a correction. Jeremy Lin is the *only* Asian-American to ever play in the NBA. Other Asians like Yao Ming who played in the NBA aren't/weren't American.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • NOMORETEARS

      How about we use "players who look asian"

      February 14, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Frank a NYC

      Actually Lin is not the "only" asian-american to play in the NBa. He is actually the 2nd and both played for the Knicks. The Knicks signed a player from Utah, yes Utah, name Misaka who wore #15. The knicks honored him last year I believe. He is still alive.

      February 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  20. Dennis

    CNN why don't you run a story on Atheist athletes. Like politics, sports should not be a platform to Evangelize!!!

    February 14, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Whatever

      BINGO.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Feast of Beast

      Agree!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Mr. N.

      Because CNN has no problem with the first amendment unless the people in question mention something the average CNN reporter dislikes, such as religion.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Sarah

      You do realize that this is the "Belief" section of CNN, right?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Because reasonable level headed people aren't as interesting. Highligting these followers is not a compliment.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • MAff

      Stop hating. Sports figures arent making decisions that effect your life. Let them be who they are.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • U.S.Army-OverLord

      Because who cares about Atheist?!? Next time find something to believe in 😉

      February 14, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      @ Sarah ... "belief" isn't a right held exclusively for "religious" beliefs. You do realize that don't you?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Don

      Because they were not reporting on their sports achievements, they were reporting on the insanity of the fools who hear imginary beings supposedly talking to them and not realizing they are suffering from Schizophrenia and need immediate mental health care. But then those who are insane never truly see their insanity, not even when they get even worse and strap on a bomb and blow up innocent people at bus and train stations because those innocents according to their imaginary beings are those 'EVIL" Non believers, BOOM!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • jem morgue

      @sarah, you close minded fool. of course I still have beliefs. I believe when you die, synapses stop firing and you rot. beliefs don't have to revolve around magic men watching your every move, ya know.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • clarify

      Like politics, sports should not be a platform to evangelize atheism. Hypocritical and intolerant.
      As for Sarah's comment, this is a Belief section or are atheist's now confirming what we all know to be true: that atheism really is a religion.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      clarify ... LOL, you crack me up. I, as an Atheist, believe in a great many things (hence belief) however religion is not one of them. I "belive" in everyone's right to break free of the indoctrination from birth scenario to be free to be a good, moral, ethical, loving person by choice & not out of fear of eternal dangnation.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Clarify
      But politics and sports are perfectly legitimate forums in which to prosthelytize your faith?

      February 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.